Monday, February 26, 2007

Chocolate in Africa

It felt quite a long journey to get here but stepping onto the tarmac at Nairobi, and smelling the warm, wet air of fresh rain on the hot ground, I felt like I had come home. I love stepping off planes into hot countries. As I write this I have a flash of getting off the plane in Australia almost exactly the same time last year, and feel a twang of longing to see my family back there. OK, that was momentary. I’m in Africa! The airport in Nairobi is hotter than outside, and they let people smoke in there. We didn’t have to stay long fortunately. Long enough to step into the duty free shop and discover chocolate! It was swiss chocolate, but no unnecessary ingredients, and they had a dark chocolate with lemon and pepper! Had to buy it. I am sure it will help me up the summit.

We are now safely in Arusha and packed and ready to begin climbing tomorrow. And we have already raised over £1000 for the school, which we will get to next week. I am excited. Money will go towards the ongoing maintenance and to help pay for the teacher. For now, I have to go back to the table in the tent where we just enjoyed a BBQ: we are about to get briefed on the wonders (and dangers) of Kili.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

potential chocolate shortage

I have been unrestrainedly (this is a word, right?) eating chocolate the last few days (I made the brownie again - "oops"). This is because I am going to Africa in a few hours and, although Cacao is grown in Africa, I don't like my chances of getting some. I am struggling to decide just how much chocolate I should take with me. And perhaps it might be wise to have a little break from it? Nah! Do you think customs puts a limit on chocolate?

Because of this trip I will be out of touch for the next two weeks. I will be climbing a rather large mountain and then helping to build a school for a Masai warrior tribe. If you would like to support the building of the school you can donate at I will post some pictures when I get back!

My sympathies to anyone who decided to give up chocolate for lent... Next time choose meat!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Chocolate in pancakes

Did I mention the pancakes last night? We made two batches. Mine with organic flour, an organic egg, some water and coconut milk. Yum. (I'm not too much of an organic snob, I swear, I just read things, and tend to believe everything I read. Like, apparently, using organic flour makes a big difference to whether cakes rise. Though I wasn't looking for the pancakes to rise... Anyway, when they were cooking they smelt like some kind of coconut pancakes I remember eating in Bangkok. They didn't taste much like it though, they were only mildly coconuty. I began eating them with lemon and syrup. Then I decided to great some dark chocolate onto one, put lashings of black cherry compote and thick (organic!) cream. Divine....

I think every Tuesday should be pancake Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The gym is a scary place

I arrived at the gym at 6.45 and almost every machine and floor mat was full. When I left 45 minutes later they really were all full. [It's pancake Tuesday! I had to get home to have pancakes!] I did manage to walk onto the machines I wanted as I wanted them [I'm quite good at getting what I want! Usually without even asking...]. I still don't like it being that busy. I'm glad I decided not to renew my membership when it expires at the end of the month. I much prefer running outside, alone. And going rock climbing with friends. I've just bought a bike too! Haven't put the pedals on yet. It cost less than my next month's gym membership would (yeah, not a super-fancy bike). This is a much nicer way to exercise.

Looking around the gym there is a huge range of people. I think that's why I don't like it being so full. I get so enthralled in people watching and with all the mirrors it's really hard to block it all out, when I would rather just get lost in my own thoughts, or focus on exercising itself. Looking at people and wondering who they are, and why they're there. It's a little bit scary watching some seriously skinny women really pushing themselves. It looks so un-fun it makes me think going to the gym at all is a crazy idea. What is it that makes people work so hard on physical "perfection"? Is the pounding of their muscles a way of punishing their psyche? Are they unable to stop whilst there is anyone around with smaller bones, bigger muscles or less body fat? Do they like themselves at all? I know there are plenty of people who push hard because they enjoy stretching the capabilities of their body and building strength and endurance. I don't mean them. The women I am referring to look so unhappy. I wonder if it is worth it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

It doesn't stop at the Chocolate Tour

You would think that walking around London eating chocolate for four hours might mean I didn't eat any chocolate for the rest of the day (at least). If you did think that, you would be wrong. True, I don't have too many chocolates along the way, and I skip the hot chocolate myself, but still...

Just a few short hours later I was having dinner with friends and they served chocolate pudding. Well, it would be rude not to! It was good. And I was happy to see it. Try as I might to blame it on etiquette, I was more than happy to eat more chocolate.

My longing for the land of Oz still lingers. This weekend though, I decided I had better try one of the recipes Holly gave me.



So good! I baked the triple chocolate brownie, served it up to the Sunday night guest to serious appreciation, and had to stop myself from eating the rest of it all at once. I finished it today. It has SERIOUS amounts of milk, dark and white chocolate in it. It is very different from the incredible brownies that I buy for the people on the tour (and you will also be able to buy here soon!). The brownies on the tour are pure chocolate fudginess. This one had big chunks of milk and white chocolate and was much less gooey. Both are great...

OK, I'm making myself hungry and cranky that it's all gone now. I want to make more!!

Hmmm, this time next week I'll be preparing to climb a big mountain.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hope you got some chocolate!

Happy Valentine's Day

Er, yes, for yesterday! I was busy getting my newsletter out and forgot to wish the world a lovely day.

I hope you all got chocolate! In order to make sure I did, I gave a box away (he's sharing, what a nice man). I did get my favourite chocolate pudding as part of V Day dinner though.

Happy happy (chocolate) days.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Orgasmic chocolate

That get your attention?

This is a company that launched in 2005, out of the Business Design Centre in Islington. I went to a talk last night and was sitting in the rafters looking down on the audience below during question time and saw what looked like people eating chocolate! I nudged my friends and leant further to determine if my eyes had not deceived me. I quickly concluded that the man handing out the small bars must own or work for the company (because he had several and was handing them out freely) and that I had never seen them before. I decided that I had better find out what this chocolate was. As the presentation was ending I made a quick escape down the stairs to accost the chocolate man. I stood near him as he finished his conversation and then introduced myself. Turns out it was Orgasmic chocolate he was handing out, and the company is reopening and relaunching in the coming months. (Ahem.) He is going to be responsible for the new design. Very exciting. I was pleased to hear they are planning a new price point as well (I'm all for paying for quality but the previous prices were a bit crazy). The nice chocolate man gave us some chocolate to try. Hooray, I had scored dessert! It was the milk variety (which is obviously not as big a winner with me as dark). Organic and fair trade, made in Switzerland, a good quality chocolate. But this chocolate is not about the chocolate buzz, but the buzz that goes in it. Over 18's only. Harley Street men and women have been busy concocting secret herb combinations to elicit all sorts of feelings from these bards. I'm looking forward to their relaunch later in the year.

In other news, apparently people in Japan are having communal baths in chocolate in public spaces, as part of some Valentine's publicity stunt. Hmmm... I like the idea of bathing in chocolate, I'm not so sure I want it to be with a group of strangers though...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A strange chocolate baking habit

I am homesick.

Since this is normally the time of year that I make my pilgrimage back to Australia I suppose this makes sense. England is my home, too. It's difficult sometimes having two homes. I suspect that this homesickness will pass, or at least abate, soon enough.

I spoke to my best friend from home, Holly, the other day and she gave me two new recipes to try. However, in my nostalgia, I decided to make the double chocolate chip cookies that we used to make on my parents’ farm when we were in high school. Usually there were other friends too, we used to make these biscuits, chopping full bars of cadbury’s dark chocolate and tipping it into the batter. Yummm. This weekend I made them with Lindt chocolate (Tesco has a special at the moment and I have stocked up!). I also made a batch with agave syrup and coconut oil instead of sugar and butter, but that’s another story (an almost equally tasty one, pleasantly).

Every time I bake something (which isn’t usually more than once a week, luckily) I seem to be unable to stop eating it on the days I cook it. I eat so much that the next day I don’t usually want to eat anymore. Which is very useful for whoever I am living with! I bake for immediate cravings, and for the joy of baking, which means after the day I have cooked it, I’m not so interested anymore! (And my body starts craving vegetables and fruits.)

I miss the days of baking with my girlfriends in high school. Claire had her second child a few weeks ago. A little girl, Carly. When I last saw her she was trying to get pregnant. Now she has a baby! I'm so happy for them. I suppose that makes me more homesick, not being able to share events like this with my friends. Three other babies were born to family and friends of mine in the last four weeks. Something must have been in the air last April!

Saturday, February 03, 2007


I was at the opera last night. Why is it that non-Italian speakers emit cries of "bravo!" almost as though they don't even know they are doing it? Perhaps, the complete immersion in Italian language makes Italians of all of us. There are points when you almost feel like you don't need the subtitles suspended from the top of the front of the stage. Almost. We saw The Troubador (Il Trovatore) and it was brilliant. Stunning, stunning voices; and so satisfying to see men and women on stage who obviously are not afraid to eat food, as opposed to the often scarishly gaunt performers of other arenas.

We ate in the restaurant adjoining too (not the super-fancy one because it was booked out). Fine food, though extravagently priced for the portion sizes and quality combination. We did get mini-madelines and two Opera House wrapped squares of chocolate with our bill. Stock standard chocolate that I foolishly ate today after eating squares of Amedei and Pralus. Without that juxtaposition the ordinariness of the chocolate might not have been so apparent.

This weekend I have a long to do list. It includes "make a chocolate dessert". It's important to include these things, you know. Now to decide what to make...

Friday, February 02, 2007


After being told last year that I had to visit Laduree whilst I was in Paris, and arriving at 6.01pm and not being let in, I was so excited when I heard that they had an outlet in London. I am rarely in that area of town but as I was meeting a friend who was delayed I decided a perfect opportunity to pop in. Over fifteen varieties of macarons. I chose a few to take away (I wanted to try them all!!). It really isn't until you have good food that you realise just how ordinary cheap imitations are. This is what macarons should taste like. Go and try the salted caramel version. Mmmmm... I am told their hot chocolate is quite good, too. Looks like I will have to go back!